By Karen O’Connor
Money, money! Cunning, conniving, confusing. Like food, we can’t live without it, but it sure is a challenge to live with it. And relating to God when it comes to your finances can be even more difficult, especially if you feel the Lord has not given you all that you need or want.
Advertisers lure us with every conceivable message and image: “You deserve it.” “Buy now, pay later.” “You can have it all.” And they cast the line even further to catch the new graduate or young married couple or the retiree—consumer groups most vulnerable to pitches and scams and easy-pay methods.
How about this one? “Your house wants to give you a vacation,” followed by an invitation to take cash from a home equity line and sail off to the Bahamas! No mention of the fact that you’d be borrowing from yourself, taking from your future, and setting yourself up for another payment plan.
The Real World
“Prosperity,” according to financial coach Jerry Gellis, “is living easily and happily in the real world, whether you have money or not.”
The apostle Paul says the following, among his other teachings about money: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10, italics added).
Note his emphasis on the love of money. He is not criticizing earning, investing, and sharing. He had a profession earning money as a tent-maker. But he wanted to caution Timothy and other followers about the temptation to make money a focal point in one’s life. It seems to be an age-old problem that people of all generations need to pay attention to.
Getting a Grip
Getting a grip on your finances while keeping a grip on yourself is not easy, but you can do it with God’s grace and some common sense. It takes strength of character, a sound mind, and a willingness to stay rooted in Christ’s teachings. “Better one hand with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6).
The Bible verses below are some that my husband, Charles, and I found helpful as we untangled our finances, recovered from bankruptcy, started tithing and saving weekly, and kept track in writing of every penny we spent—from a Starbucks latte to a new sofa for the living room.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
This passage in Matthew’s Gospel struck me one day when I was struggling with how to manage our budget during a time when my husband was between jobs and my freelance writing was uncertain. I’d been trying to cut food costs, avoid buying clothing, and eliminate any entertainment that required an expense.
Well that didn’t last long! We became grumpy and irritable as we attempted to live under a regime that was unrealistic. While praying I realized that God was not holding back what we needed and wanted; he was pointing us to gather heavenly treasures—the kind that can’t be stolen or destroyed. For me this included transforming my way of thinking. I was so focused on earning and paying that I let go of joy and peace and gratitude. I was once again trying to control what only God could control. Yes, I could be wise and prudent in my spending, but I needed to do so with the Holy Spirit guiding me so I would do so with discernment.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
When I first read this verse I cringed. How could we bring a whole tithe to our church when we were barely making our rent and food bills? But with some counsel from a wise older woman, I saw that I was trying to understand and apply these words on my own strength. She encouraged me to test and trust God, as he asks, and then watch the floodgates of Heaven open. They did—but not until I gave this area of my life completely to God.
Charles and I started giving weekly—right off the top of our meager income at the time. It might have been $5 a week for several months and then $15 and $25. At the end of each year we wrote an extra check as thanksgiving for the earnings we received. During this time of learning and growing, we were able to remain employed full-time, pay off two cars, and put a down payment on a condominium—our first home together.
It has been 25 years since that first experience, and we have not wavered in our tithing—nor has God in his generous provision.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
This verse from Luke took my husband and me to a new level with our finances. We chose a few charities that had special meaning for us and began giving a small amount each month. To do so we had to cut back on movies or lunches at our favorite café, but it became a joy to share what we had with those less fortunate. We “adopted” a little girl through Compassion International, and we starting giving regularly to a Christian conference center.
Sometimes I wondered if we could continue—especially when one of our cars required expensive maintenance or when my husband had an unexpected medical bill—but we kept believing and giving, and by God’s grace we’ve never had to skip a payment. As we poured out to others, God poured out to us what we needed and beyond.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
I especially like this verse from Romans because it helped us look at our debts and create a plan to eliminate them. I received wonderful help from two financial seminars we attended and from a support group called Debtors Anonymous, based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I learned to keep track of my expenses and earnings—to note them on paper or the computer and to account for every penny, even the cost of a smoothie or a book or a new sweater—and to be responsible about the choices I made so I would always have enough money to pay bills, to tithe, and to share. We have been debt-free now (except for a small mortgage payment) for over 10 years. I praise God every day for the guidance he gave me when I needed it most.
The verses that put us on the right track can do the same for you—or maybe the Lord will point you to others. But whatever biblical principles you follow, one thing is certain: God will never leave you nor forsake you as you lean on him instead of your own understanding.
Karen O’Connor is a freelance writer and speaker in Watsonville, California. karenoconnor.com
Joshua Becker writes about pursuing simplicity on his blog Becoming Minimalist (becomingminimalist.com). Though he is a follower of Jesus and has written Christ-focused books, he says: “I understand the message of minimalism holds benefit to all who accept it . . . regardless of spiritual preference. Because of that, I may allude to spirituality on this website, but I always steer clear of speaking in specific terms concerning it.”
These three posts focus on the financial side of his life approach: